Home big read The Big Read in short: Homegrown food produce — will Singaporeans bite despite bigger price tags?

The Big Read in short: Homegrown food produce — will Singaporeans bite despite bigger price tags?

The Big Read in short: Homegrown food produce — will Singaporeans bite despite bigger price tags?

Each week, TODAY’s long-running Big Read series delves into the trends and issues that matter. This week, we look at how higher prices of local produce could pose a challenge to Singapore’s push to boost food production. This is a shortened version of the full feature, which can be found here.


Nur Hikmah Md Ali

Mr Leon Hay, owner of goat farm Hay Dairies, said that he placed a “high bidding amount” for his current land lease, which is valid for 20 years — a period of time that he described as “very short”.

“On top of that, we have the additional overheads to show SFA to prove that our produce adheres to very high food safety standards. 

“We have to pay substantial amounts of fees yearly to be certified and audited for food safety, which imported produce are not subjected to since they undergo a different system of quality control and food safety,” said Mr Hay, adding that it costs about S$2 million per year to run the farm.

Another factor is the sharp rise in electricity costs in the last couple of years. 

The price difference between local and imported produce varies according to the food category.

For produce like eggs and vegetables, the price difference can range from a few cents to a dollar by weight. But in terms of percentages, the difference can be significant.

For example, a tray of 10 eggs weighing 60 grams each from Chew’s Agriculture costs S$3.65, whereas the same product weighing 55 grams per egg from Malaysia costs S$3.30 at NTUC FairPrice supermarkets.

A 100-gram bag of pre-cut baby spinach from Artisan Green, for example, costs S$6.95 on local fine food purveyor Merchant Brothers’ online shop Pantry Selects, whereas the same product with the same weight from Australia and Italy costs S$3.80 and S$4.80 respectively on online supermarket RedMart.

This means the local produce can cost about 83 per cent more than imported ones. 

Despite the odds stacked against them, local farmers are taking concrete steps to improve their marketing and branding, in an effort to boost local demand. 

These include marketing their produce as fresher, more value for money, and better in quality compared to imported produce.

Mr Ray Poh, founder and managing director of indoor hydroponics Artisan Green, said: “We brand our products as being fresher, locally grown and pesticide-free. This is a prominent feature throughout our packaging, which is made from sustainable paper, to make us stand out more on the supermarket shelves.

“I think it works because our loyal customers tell us they are willing to pay more for our produce since they are fresher and last longer.”

Besides marketing, local farmers also invest in efficient and quality customer service to retain and expand their consumer base.

Some also sell directly to the public rather than through supermarkets while others work with local food establishments on a “farm-to-table” concept to attract customers who seek an authentic experience of having fresh, local produce on their plate.